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Thread: NASA Competition School - A Primer

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    NASA Competition School - A Primer

    "You already know how to fly. Now it’s time to learn how to Dog Fight!" ~Chris Cobetto

    I just recently passed Competition School with NASA Mid-Atlantic. In the months leading up to Competition School, I found myself asking friends a bunch of questions because there wasn't enough information online about what I'd experience on track or on the written test. This post is meant to provide that information so that future Competition School students will be better prepared. That said, I'm just one guy that squeaked through Competition School one time, so please feel free to suggest additions, make comments, or ask questions. In addition, I assume that NASA Competition School varies somewhat by region.

    Make sure that your car will pass tech inspection for race cars. That means a roll cage, kill switch, rollcage padding, in-date belts, race seat, vinyl, etc. Your car must be 100% ready for wheel-to-wheel competition or you will fail Competition School before it even starts. Similarly, you must have all of the necessary racing gear including a helmet, HANS, racing suit, gloves, shoes, socks, etc. I highly suggest getting your car log-booked by a local race shop beforehand so you have all of that stuff squared away ahead of time. I had my car and safety equipment inspected by MachV in Sterling, Virginia. Even with the logbook in hand, I still had to go through annual tech inspection on Thursday night. Competition School takes place all day on the Friday before an ordinary NASA racing weekend. If you pass, you get to race the next two days.

    During Friday Competition School, you'll need somebody to act as your crew for the day because there is zero free time during the day. The entirety of your day will be spent on track or in the classroom. If your car breaks, you will fail. At a minimum, you'll need a crew member to fill your car with gas. There are five on-track sessions and each session is 40 minutes long. That's more than a whole weekend of NASA HPDE. Again, make sure your car is fully prepared. The schedule was roughly as follows:

    8:00 - 8:40 - Classroom
    9:00 - 9:40 - Session 1 (Warm-up and Race)
    9:50 - 10:40 - Classroom
    10:50 - 11:30 - Session 2 (Half-Track Drills)
    11:40 - 12:40 - Classroom
    1:00 - 1:40 - Session 3 (Side-by-side and Leapfrog Drills)
    1:50 - 2:50 - Classroom
    3:00 - 3:40 - Session 4 (Practice Starts)
    3:50 - 4:50 - Classroom
    5:00 - 5:40 - Session 5 (Fun Race)
    5:50 - 6:20 - Written Exam

    Session 1 - Warm-up and Race
    Warm up followed by a rolling start and race with some instructors out there to spice things up a bit. The warm-up portion is omitted because it's just an ordinary HPDE event. Instructors are out on track to evaluate the students and test their ability to cope with close racing situations. For example, the instructor in the #667 SpecE46 chose to mess with me from about 15:00 through 18:50 in this video.


    Session 2 - Half-Track Drills
    Half of the session is spent on the left 50% of the track and half the session is spent on the right 50% of the track. This drill is designed to get the student accustomed to driving at-speed and off the ordinary race line.


    Session 3 - Side-by-Side and Leapfrog Drills
    Two students are paired up for the session. The students drive the course side-by-side, alternating sides for the first and second quarters of the session. Then, for the latter half of the session, the students pass one another in designated corners as part of the leap-frog drill. You'll hear my partner (the blue Honda Civic) more than you'll see him. Again, instructors strategically place their cars to test the students' comfort level with driving in close proximity with other cars -- sometimes forcing a three-wide situation.


    Session 4 - Practice Starts
    The students practice standing and rolling starts. There are two standing starts followed by a race to Turn 11 followed by two rolling starts followed by a race to Turn 11. After that, we raced until the end of the session. This session was easily the most fun and most useful.


    Session 5 - Fun Race
    The fun race involves instructors, students, and a myriad of other racers that want to participate. It starts just as the Competition School students are finishing Session 4 and without the Competition School students on track. After the students cool down for a bit, the pace car gathers the experienced racers and the students join up at the back of the field. Then the course goes green and everybody races as usual. I happened to be stuck in a sort of no-man's-land so my fun-race was rather uneventful.


    Immediately after the fun race, I pulled off and did the egress test. There was no time to stop the video camera, so you'll see that riveting footage at the end of the Session 5 video. I honestly don't remember what the time limit is, but it's a test to ensure you can exit your vehicle quickly with all safety gear on.

    Written Exam
    The exam is a mixture of fill-in-the-blank, very few multiple choice, and mostly open-ended questions that you can answer in two or three sentences. You are given 30 minutes to finish. I have no idea what percentage is required to pass. All I do know is that 16 potential racers took the test and only 4 passed on the first try. I am told that the 12 folks that failed initially re-tested the next morning and passed. It's not hard but you absolutely must read and study the CCR with a focus on the following areas:

    1) Flags + Safety Vehicles
    There were one or two questions that were simply "X flag is displayed, what does it mean?" For the most part, however, the flag questions presented factual scenarios and made you determine which flag(s) would be present. For example, you might be told there are six consecutive flag stations with a tow truck between 1 and 2, a disabled racecar on the surface between 3 and 4, and a slow-moving racecar dropping fluid between 5 and 6. Then, you must answer with which flag(s) you would expect to see at each of the six flag stations. There were at least two of these questions.

    2) Passing Rules
    At the back of the CCR is an appendix with diagrams showing failed passing attempts that result in contact and discussing who is at fault for the contact. Several of the questions were simply those same diagrams, with a question about who is at fault and why. There were also other written questions that were factually different from those appendix diagrams but the substance is basically the same. A attempts to pass B, there's contact somewhere, explain who is at fault.

    3) Compliance + Penalties
    There were a few questions about what you must do if involved in a contact incident, how protests work, and what the penalties are for various types of contact. Penalties include both DQ's and suspensions, and also the points assigned to your license for such infractions. I would not have studied this portion of the CCR unless told to do so (Thanks Jake!) beforehand.
    Last edited by OCRentAPopo; 04-08-2018 at 03:09 PM.

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    Thanks for taking the time. We hear great things about the NASA experience, and it's nice to learn more.
    If God meant for man to motor-swap LS engines into track cars, He wouldn't have created Corvettes.

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    That's awesome, congrats. This is helpful, thanks.
    COMSCC T70 E36 M3

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    Very nice write up.

    This is my 3rd full year racing GTS2 with NASA Mid Atlantic.
    It's all I want to do in life these days.
    Highly recommend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joenationwide View Post
    Very nice write up.

    This is my 3rd full year racing GTS2 with NASA Mid Atlantic.
    It's all I want to do in life these days.
    Highly recommend.
    Thanks. Racing is now the only thing I think about.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
    That's awesome, congrats. This is helpful, thanks.
    Thanks, Dan. I hope others find it helpful in preparing to take the plunge.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by JBasham View Post
    Thanks for taking the time. We hear great things about the NASA experience, and it's nice to learn more.
    It was certainly a worthwhile experience. I sucked slightly less during the races that weekend than I would have otherwise.

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    great videos.
    what schools if any are required for the different series? TT, spec etc?

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    Sounds like the written test has been upgraded from when I took it ten-ish years ago. I think it was multiple-guess back then and honestly you had to be a complete moron not to pass it.

    There is no different test for racing classes. A Comp license is the same for any class of W2W competition. TT is something different and does not require all the safety gear that W2W does (it has less demanding requirements overall).

    I think the NASA comp school is certainly better than the requirements of the 'other' sporty car club of 'murica and teaches some truly useful skills. Thanks, OP, for a good write-up. Now start saving a LOT of money to pay for all the tires you will be going through!
    NASA HPDE instructor

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    Nice write up. I race Scca but considering NASA in future

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    Quote Originally Posted by poweredbyg60 View Post
    great videos.
    what schools if any are required for the different series? TT, spec etc?
    As David said, there is no additional testing for your chosen racing class. Once you're licensed for wheel-to-wheel racing, you're licensed for all of the racing series in NASA.

    The TT license is way less restrictive. Your car need only pass the same HPDE tech inspection plus whatever compliance is necessary for your chosen TT class. Depending on the TT class, that might involve a weigh-in and HP test on the dyno. For the potential TT driver, all you need to do is submit the application and complete a check-ride. The TT check-ride is basically the same as the check-ride to move from HPDE2 to HPDE3.

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    Quote Originally Posted by revzillia View Post
    Nice write up. I race Scca but considering NASA in future
    Thanks, Rev. NASA will also allow SCCA, BMWCCA etc. racers to obtain a NASA racing license without going through competition school. It's not an absolute rule, though, and is very much a case-by-case determination based on experience and other stuff I know nothing about.

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